Loneliness is not a numerical measure of connection or companionship, it’s an experience of deep emotional and/or social disconnection. Loneliness is not only harrowing emotionally, it can have a devastating impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. Loneliness cultivates depression, it is proven to suppress our immune system, stress our physical health, and when sustained it affects our life expectancy.
Arriving at an age we never imagined arriving at must be so depressing. Now you can’t drive your car, you can’t get to the shops like you use to. Not being able to spontaneously call in on friends and family must be really depressing. Sitting in a small room, with just your TV, bed and a small kitchenette for company must really bring someone down. Added to this limited day light hours and miserable weather, if it was me I would be really low. Through the window, via the TV or just listening to the outside world, lonely people watch everyone around connect to their loved ones, adding to their feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Sitting on your own with just your memories, no one to share them with, it must be so so hard to not slip into a dark and miserable place. My one abiding memory of the most fantastic Christmas was when I was about 10y old. We went to stay with my aunt and cousins for the Christmas week. There were 6 children all sleeping in one bedroom, in a massive farm house (note: no central heating) with a huge garden covered in snow. On Christmas eve we were sent to bed early, we were going to midnight mass and had to get up at 11pm to drive to Norwich Cathedral. We were so so excited, sleep was not going to come. What a brilliant game pretending we were asleep every time an adult came to check on us.
Finally it was time to leave, all wrapped up in warm clothes and ready to sing our hearts out. All of us packed into a Vauxhall van, my mums chosen form of family transport, some what different to todays modern, safe people carriers. There was always a fight for who was going to sit in the spare wheel as there were no seats in the back. The journey usually took 30 mins, but not this Christmas eve, the fog was thick, so thick you could not see a thing. I could tell mum was a bit worried, but she made it and the next thing I remember is entering the Cathedral, all lite with candles. Soft Christmas tunes were being played on the most amazing organ, all the people wrapped up and the smell of frankincense.
All of us belting out glorious Christmas carols was so lovely. What was also memorable was my sister and I standing over the great big iron grates in the floor. Streaming up at great force was warm air, the central heating for the Cathedral. So strong and powerful was the force of the warm air it blew our dresses up and over our heads. We loved it, like Marilyn Monroe.
My next memory is mum coming into our bedrooms to inform us we had picked the wrong stockings, we had picked our cousins. Tragedy as we had eaten the chocolate coins and scoffed the tangerine. TANGERINE, the smell takes me right back to every Christmas I ever had as a child.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be to stop yourself slipping into a lonely dark place at this time of year. With only memories as company and mindless TV for distraction. So whats to do… Visit a neighbour you know are on their own, invite them over and help them get out of the house. Share some good cheer and take time to reminisce with people in your locality. An easy and effective way to is to directly reach out to people, invite them around, go and visit or call for a chat. Its worth the effort, really.